Flea market razzle in Helsinki

It looks like the summer has finally arrived in Helsinki. June being rather rainy and cold most of the Finns escaped to abroad seeking warmer weathers, but luckily July came with a whole new climate. Past couple of days we have been able to enjoy warming temperatures and sunshine – which of course means that everyone is out on the move.

One of my favourite things about summer is visiting the street flea markets that pop up all around the city (and country) almost every weekend. During  the past couple of years these pop-up flea markets have become quite popular and more accepted by the local authorities, too.

This time the flea market we wanted to visit was held in Vaasankatu – a street well known of its shady bars and pubs offering cheap beer and being very popular among the strangest residents of the city, day and night. Vaasankatu is located in bohemian and lively Kallio district not too far from the Helsinki centre. It’s also easy to access by metro, as it starts right outside the entrance of Sörnäinen metro station.

I really like flea markets and believe in the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle. One’s thrash is another’s treasure, don’t they say? I think people are getting more and more conscious about issues bothering our planet and especially when it comes to travelling, we should think what is sustainable and what is not. I think it’s always better to support the locals by buying products directly from them and/or buying second hand stuff than putting your money on big chain companies. Visiting flea markets on your travel destination is one way to support the locals – and you probably get to find very unique and personal souvenirs.

For design fans I also recommend visiting different flea markets – some popular Finnish designer china such as Iittala and Arabia and older Marimekko designs can be found from flea markets and usually in a very reasonable prices. Especially Japanese seem to really love Finnish design and when visiting Finland they are totally after it – so act quickly or there might not be much left!

You might want to check the social media about street flea markets before arriving, but there are plenty of permanent flea markets in Helsinki area, here’s to name few:

 

Hietalahti flea market

Hietalahdentori, 00180 Helsinki

Located in Hietalahti market square. A classic, summertime outdoor flea market open 7 days a week, opening hours vary.

 

Jäähalli flea market

Nordenskiöldinkatu 11-13, 00250 Helsinki

Open saturdays and sundays from 9:30am to 1:30 pm, closed during summertime and if there’s other event at the ice rink

 

Lanttila

Porttikaari 2, 01200 Vantaa

Big indoor self-service flea market with clothes, old records, furniture, pretty much everything.. Located next to IKEA Vantaa – accessible from Helsinki centrum by bus number 734.

 

KABOOM! Self-service flea market

Aleksis Kiven katu 50, 00510 Helsinki

Runned by two flea market enthusiastics who wanted to bring something new to the “scene”. Closed on mondays.

There are of course plenty of other flea markets – and second hand shops around the city as well, most notorious of them called UFF (a second hand chain) – but I have to admit it’s not exactly my favourite, mostly because of the high prices.. The Finnish word for flea market is “Kirpputori“, so look around for it when exploring the city if you are looking for second hand stuff!

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5 travel apps I’m using

I tried to avoid getting a smart phone for a long time, because I felt that I don’t need to be online all the time. At some point I realized that we are living in 21st century and this attitude doesn’t just work anymore – so I got my first iPhone, about year and a half ago. Since then I’ve been using all the basic social media applications etc but recently I’ve gotten interested also in different travel applications to see if they can help me out planning my travels and/or when I’m travelling.

1. Booking.com

Booking.com application I actually started using already a year ago, when we were travelling around Central Europe by car. As we moved a lot from place to place and our schedule changed all the time, there was no point making any reservations before leaving for the trip. We mostly stayed at camping sites that needed no advance reservation but couple of times we wanted to stay in a hotel and I found this application very handy when making the reservations. It’s very basic and simple as a good app should be.

When searching the hotel of your dream the app also shows special/value deals on red so that they are easy to notice among others. We actually got two nights in a 4 star hotel in Berlin pretty cheaply by a special deal the application offered. I’m always looking for the cheapest places to stay so good filters are needed – I don’t really care about the other options as long as I can view the hotels by price starting from lowest.

 

2. Couchsurfing

I’ve had profile in Couchsurfing since 2011 and I really like it, but sometimes it’s just very time-consuming checking and answering messages and requests on the site (especially if I’m on my phone), so I was very happy when I discovered this application a while ago – communicating with hosts I’m looking for or surfers coming to stay with me became much more easier than before.

The application is simple to use – more simple than the online site they have, I think! It’s also easy to navigate your way around and the layout is very simple and clear. You can easily look for hosts and events in area of your choice. Only thing I didn’t figure out yet is that how can I search for surfers looking for a couch (= their open couch requests) – maybe it’s not yet possible via application.

 

3. Gogobot

Some time ago I just randomly picked this application from App Store as it was showing in the front page. With this app you can search information about destinations, plan your trip, write reviews and read reviews written by users and one of the most fun part – earn badges after writing reviews. It’s also possible to book accommodation by using Gogobot app.

I visited Gogobot’s website and it gave me a little different image of its purpose than the application, and I don’t think I’ll be using their online site but the application – I like a lot. It looks nice and fun with all the colors and photos (very important to me), it’s rather easy to use – it takes some practice that you’ll learn to navigate your way around, which was a little frustrating at first though. One annoying thing is also that for some reason my profile says that I live in Haapajärvi – which is not true, I don’t even know where in Finland that place is, I don’t know how I can change my place of residence in the application and I don’t know where the application even got the idea that I’m living there!

With the application you can plan your trip and see all the destinations/attractions/accommodations you picked to your list on a map. I think you can’t see the map offline, which isn’t very good when you are travelling and don’t have internet connection all the time – but luckily I am a person who still believes and trusts in printed maps, handwritten notes and guidebooks, so I wouldn’t be needing this app all the time when travelling. There is, however, another application I know which provides offline maps – CreateTrips.

One thing that I really like are the badges, that you earn after downloading photos and writing reviews. I like to write reviews of places I’ve visited and the badges really encourage to write them more. It’s like a game!

 

4. Hostelworld.com

Hostelworld.com application is new to me. I downloaded it because I wanted to compare it a little to Booking.com app that I’m already using. The first impression was that the app is very simple, the layout as well – and I could easily search for hostels in New York (my test destination). The application shows hostels conveniently on a map as well and by clicking the red symbol you can see which hostel is which.

As I haven’t registered to Hostelworld.com website before and don’t have an account, I was surprised that I couldn’t create one in the application! I haven’t yet made any bookings via this application, so I don’t know if it’s possible to even book something without an account or will the app create one for you when making the booking – but I guess I will be trying to book something during my next trip with this application and then I’ll find out.

 

5. NYC Subway

As my next travel destionation will be New York, I found this application and thought it would be handy when trying to figure our way around the city in August. So far so good, the app is very easy to use and provides useful information for example on ongoing service changes etc. that even locals might find useful.

The real-time information is probably available only with working internet connection but the map is avaible to look in offline mode. No more ragged paper maps, this is the future you are holding in your phone! One thing that I really like is the routing service. I have similar application for travelling in Helsinki (a travel planner), which tells always which bus, train etc. I should take if I want to travel from A to point B. Routing will hopefully be very handy!

What travel applications do you use? Do you have any favourites?

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Trying out urban exploration

Urban exploration has become rather popular, or at least, that’s what I hear all the time. I, too, got interested in it so during the past couple of days we have done some urban exploration sightseeing in our home city Vantaa as in Helsinki, too. I remember some abandoned places that I’ve visited when I was a kid but not many of the sites we have here in the capital area are familiar to me. Actually there was one quite near by where I live that I had not heard before – the Nissas estate. It dates back to early 20th century and it was burned down in 1930’s.

I have to say that I was a little disappointed when I saw the ruins – because the place had obviously been renovated! New roof, columns where painted and handrails had been installed. I don’t know what kind of plans the city has for the ruins but it seems like they wanted to make it more pretty – and maybe more safe as well.

I heard of another interesting place that is in Kartanonkoski, Vantaa. The area is very beautiful with rapids and nature around. Sadly, the abandoned mill wasn’t as abandoned anymore as we had thought it would be and we couldn’t get any closer look – some kind of renovations were taking place in there, too. It seems that someone has finally taking care of the property. This old mill in Kartanonkoski is located next to a busy road, so it’s not very hidden – maybe that’s the reason, why it didn’t stay abandoned.

There is one very strange yet beautiful place in Helsinki called Kruunuvuori. It’s not that hidden anymore as many people know already about it and I think the whole place is getting demolished sooner or later as new neighbourhood is being built right next to it – so now is the time to visit, before you miss it!

Villas in Kruunuvuori date back somewhere in the 19th/20th century I guess. Most of them served as summer houses for germans living in Helsinki. In the 1950’s a local businessman bought the villas, planning to build a new neighbourhood but the plans never worked out so the villas became deserted. Since then they’ve just stood there, alone, in the middle of the forest.

I have to say that Kruunuvuori is a very mysterious place yet somehow a little scary at the same time. Some of the buildings have gotten their part from vandalism and graffittis, and they serve as a secret party place for youngsters. I wouldn’t want to enter to any of the buildings though, as they were in a pretty bad shape.

Urban exploration sites are interesting and great for taking photos. There is just few things we should remember when visiting these kind of places – don’t break or take anything away. Leave the places as they were. Most of the old buildings aren’t very safe anymore, so it’s good to be careful and watch your step.

Some people like to keep the best hidden gems to themselves – which is good in a way, as the more untouched the places stay, the more mysterious and interesting they are. I think I’ll continue exploring, it’s a great way to have small adventures in your own hometown!

What do you think of urban exploration? Do you find visiting abandoned places or ruins interesting?

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Moving around in Helsinki

The northernmost metro station in the world – Mellunmäki station

Orange metro of Helsinki

Central Railway Station’s metro entrance

VR – Suomen Valtion Rautatiet (Finnish State Railways)

Glass ceiling at Helsinki railway station

Public transportation in Helsinki capital area is good. We have metro, buses, trams and commuter rail. During wintertime the public transportation might face some problems (usually if there is heavy snowfall), but other than that, I think it’s quite reliable. For visitors I recommend a day ticket costing 8 euros. A single ticket costs 2,50 euros (one zone), so if you are planning to use the public transportation many times during the day it will be cheaper to get the day ticket. Single tickets are also valid only for about an hour after purchase. Same ticket is valid in all five modes of transportation (bus, tram, metro, train and Suomenlinna ferry).

Explore other parts of the capital area too – for example you can take a bus to Tapiola, where Espoo Museum of Modern Art is located. Only in 15 minutes by metro from the center you can reach Itäkeskus, where is the largest shopping mall in Nordic countries. If you decide to stay in the center, try Spårakoff – it’s a tram converted into a bar! The pub tram in Helsinki has been claimed to be the only one of its kind in the world.

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5 things to do in Koh Tao for non-divers

Koh Tao (“Turtle Island”) is an island in Thailand. It’s located in the western shore of Gulf of Thailand. I visited Koh Tao first time four years ago and immediately fell in love with it. Koh Tao is very popular among divers as there is a wide selection of dive sites and dive shops. But what if you’re not interested in diving? Should you visit Koh Tao?

“What are you doing here then?” a dive master asked me when I told him that I’m not very interested in diving. I felt annoyed. What do you mean? I’m not allowed to come, if I don’t dive? In my opinion, Koh Tao offers a lot more than only diving!

1. Relaxing on the quiet beaches when everyone else is diving

As most of the tourists on the island are into diving, us non-divers get all the beaches to ourselves when everyone else are diving. You don’t need to fight for the perfect spot where to grill your skin on the beach. Koh Tao has about eight beaches where to choose from. Sairee is the biggest and most commercial with a lot of dive shops, restaurants, bars and resorts – but during daytime it can be surprisingly sleepy!

2. Hiking around the island

As you won’t be spending all of your time under the water, you can explore the surface. Koh Tao is rather hilly island so there’s several view points to visit. It’s good exercise – just remember to take a camera and a water bottle with you!

Many visitors rent a motorbike – even though Koh Tao is quite small island and many of the places are within walking distance. I can’t ride a motorbike so I’m used to walking everywhere. I recommend this to everyone as motorbike accidents in Thailand among tourists are sadly very common.

3. Try different activities

Diving is not the only activitity you can do on island – Koh Tao has two muay thai (thaiboxing) gyms, rock climbing, jungle trekking, yoga, trapeze adventure.. Just to name few. Couple of years ago I spent about 2 months on the island and I chose thaiboxing, as I had been training it already in Finland before going to Koh Tao and wanted to try keep in shape during my stay. I also did a lot of snorkeling. It’s a great way to explore the underwater world since many of the corals are located near the beaches.

Koh Nang Yuan is located next to Koh Tao and just 5 to 10 minute long tail boat ride away. It’s a great destination for a day trip. You could also rent a long tail boat and visit some of the beaches in Koh Tao that are not always easy to reach by walking, motorbike or taxi.

4. Volunteer

Save Koh Tao Marine conservation branch arranges projects. Everybody is welcome to join free of charge, even though the projects are mostly meant for locals and people working and diving with dive schools. You can read about their projects from here. The site is a little out of date, so I don’t know about the current situation of the projects, but by contacting them you’ll get more information.

For animal lovers – like me – there’s also another option. Koh Tao Animal Clinic is doing great work taking care, neutering and vaccinating the wandering animals on island. Check more information about volunteering at the clinic in here.

5. Have a few Chang beers and enjoy the sunset

After a long day of different activities, volunteering and sunbathing your diver friends have finally returned to island and it’s time for a dinner and maybe a party. Enjoying ice cold beer in beach restaurant during sunset feels always so magical! Sairee beach has most of the nightlife in Koh Tao. If you are not into partying, choose to stay in a smaller beach, where you don’t need to get interrupted by party people returning to their bungalows five in the morning.

Koh Tao has a special place in my heart and I love it there, even though I have different reasons to go there than my diving friends. As said, the island offers a lot more than only diving. Beautiful beaches, clear water and great atmosphere make me return there time after time.

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